Olympic Holidays
Greek islands

Greek Islands Postcards

holiday travel guides to the islands of Greece

As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holidays in Greece and travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.

Our Popular islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.

The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.

The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.

Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic holidays in Greece.

By far the frankest and best written guide to the Greek islands - Guardian Online

Holiday season off to flying start

Taverna

2015 has got off to a flying start with more Brits than ever heading off to the Greek Islands. Figures for January record a 50% rise in arrivals at airports and ferry ports this year compared to the same month last year. And it appears that Brits are leading the way with a whopping 66% increase in arrivals, followed by the US, Germany and France. It leaves Greek tourism officials even more confident they can break last year's record tourist numbers and hit their target of 25 million visitors by the end of the 2015 holiday season. Good exchange rates against the euro and low prices across Greece this season are thought to be the main conributors to the surge in Greek Island holidays this year. The Greeks certainly need the foreign cash as they struggle to keep up with debt repayments on international loans. Unfortunately, visiting tourists are spending less while on holiday with tourism receipt up only 9% so far.

Featured Greek beaches

Tzaneria  Skiathos

Tzaneria sands on Skiathos

Dominated by the Nostos hotel, Tzaneria beach is set between two large rock bluffs on the south coast about 7km from Skiathos Town. A taverna sits behind the flat sand beach and there are plenty of watersports.

Agia Paraskevi Samos

Agia Paraskevi on Samos

One of the most beautiful spots on Samos, Agia Paraskevi lies on the headland north of Samos Town. Just a narrow swathe of pebble and a couple of tavernas but the vistas are exquisite and the hills are covered in walking trails.

Sivota Lefkas

Sivota harbour on Lefkas

The charming harbour at Sivota is located at the end of a deep bay and enclosed by hills with a very sheltered anchorage for yacht flotillas and day trip visitors. A pretty village with many traditional stone-built houses.

Corfu gets the first seaplane flights

Seaplanes

It's taken years to get off the ground but it looks like seaplane services will be flying out of Corfu in 2015. The last hurdle has been cleared to build a seaplane port in Corfu Town harbour, paving the way for up to 100 seaplane routes between the Greek island over the coming months. Approval has been given for seaplane port builds, a floating pier and up to 10 flight daily from Corfu. Greek company Hellenic Seaplanes says 30 routes are currently in the pipeline and most could be operational next year, notably at other popular tourist islands such as Crete and Zante. Seaplane services should boost holiday tourism on more remote islands currently only reachable by slow ferries. Hellenic Seaways more than just scheduled seaplane flights. Expect sightseeing tours over the Greek Islands as well as a variety of excursion packages.

Favourite Greek sights

Towers Naxos

Fortified towers of Naxos

Naxos has several fortified towers or 'pyrgi' built either for defence or as fortress watchtowers. The best is the 4th century BC Chimaros tower in the south of Naxos. It has three storeys and is enclosed by a stone wall.

Thassos

Amphitheatre of Thassos

The amphitheatre at Thassos dates from the 3rd century BC and can seat up to 3,000. The Romans used it for gladiatorial contests and it is still used today for music and theatre, with panoramic views over the sea.

Camera Aegina

Camera House of Aegina

On a hill near Perdika is the remarkable Camera Obscura House, with twelve openings in the circular wall creating a 360° panoramic image of the outside world on a screen, upside down and reversed.

Rules relaxed on Greek scuba diving

Diving

Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.

Greek ferry timetables out earlier

Ferries

Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. Now things are different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of the previous year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands and help extend the holiday season.

Greek beaches lose Blue Flag status

Beach

A total of 38 Greek Island beaches have been stripped of their Blue Flag status this summer after spot checks found they failed to reach the required standards. Corfu was hit the worst after 23 of its 30 island beaches having the coveted Blue Flags withdrawn. Inspectors found that many of the island beaches failed to meet the 32 strict criteria needed to win Blue Flag status. Other notable flag losses were on the islands of Lesvos, Zante and Crete. The setback still leaves Greece second out of 51 countries for the number of clean, safe beaches along its shores, with 370 still flying the Blue Flag, but this will be a bitter blow to Greek tourism leaders. The Blue Flag beach award is considered the gold standard in the tourism industry with the annual accolade issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education.

A very quick guide to the Greek Islands

Greek travel map

There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the north-east is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.

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